There are several ways to mount a handline reel for trolling the Detroit River, and honestly any body of water that has a fast current. If you are from the suburbs of Detroit, know as the Downriver area, you will still find the old school method of mounting a 2 x 4″ across the bow on several boats on the river. Unfortunately, this method was not foolproof back then or now, and as a result, several of the reels made their way to the bottom of the river.
As I am getting the boat ready for the Michigan Walleye Tour event on the Detroit River this weekend, its hard not to have noticed both recent weather and the upcoming forecast for our area. Rain, more rain, with some snow mixed in! Springtime in Michigan, it never fails to throw you a curve. Last year we had an inch of snow in the boat, and had to nibble the ice off my St. Croix jigging rods. All I needed was my Clam Kenai Pro shanty in the bow, and I would have had it made.
Unfortunately, that’s impossible to do, and even though I was dressed for the weather in all my IceArmor gear from Clam Outdoors, the conditions were not ideal. That also means, the need to adapt to the weather, and more importantly the water conditions. Jigging rocks, love the feel of the rod in my hand and the weight of the walleye at the other end on the jig. Every time I go fishing, specially under tournament conditions, there is something new to be learned, and I learned that jigging isn’t always the answer during last year’s two day event.
Trolling on the river is the “reel” deal when it comes to fishing dirty, fast flowing water. Although, I would love to be able to pull my TX-22 planer boards from Church Tackle (and I still might on Sunday) the river was “double booked” this year by the MWC tour crowding in on Friday and Saturday. This means Saturday is going to be crowded to say the least and as I stated earlier, you learn from prior experiences, and in this case, the answer is a century old, at least on the Detroit River.
Handlining is the solution to the problem of having a river full of boats. Pulling wire, as it is often referred to for this method of trolling shallow running crankbaits like the Original Floating Rapala. Which is great, have some reels already, but getting back to my mounting question, I just had to find the right answer to match up with my boat. Enter the Michigan company, Traxstech which offers a solution for everything you want to mount on your boat, from rod holders to electronics!
My only issue was where to start, so I called in Paul Doute from Angler’s Quest Charters, who is also responsible for creating the Gator Jig, a must have for the Detroit River. Who knew that someday I would be “networking” in the fishing world, but it certainly pays off with the exchange of knowledge. Paul, who runs perch and walleye charters on Lake Erie and in the river, was able to suggest the right Traxstech equipment so I could create my own “Ultimate Fishing Experience” when it comes to rigging the boat for handlining.
Lets start off with the foundation for the build, the back plate is for reinforcing/stabilizing the 6″ track that I am going to use. Since the handline reels are in a specialized location near the windshield of the boat, I went with the 6″ track system. Even though my Crestliner has some pretty thick aluminum, I still wanted to give it the support for my own piece of mind. Remember, you have a good chunk of change at the other end, why skimp and take a chance on losing all your gear.
Then I got the end caps. I wanted to make sure my mount didn’t go anywhere in the process of getting to our fishing location, or for that matter, in the process of fishing too. It is downright foolish to take the time and investment in your equipment and not provide for every contingency that could ruin your day on the water.
The last piece for this build is the Universal Bracket, which will hold your handline reel just far enough away from the boat to ensure the proper method employed while handlining. Notice the set screws/star bolts, this will lock the bracket into your track through friction. Put on the end caps and stop fussing, your gear is locked in and ready to fish!
Now you are set to go handlining on the Detroit River. Well almost, you still need your; reels, shanks, weights, and floating cranks. Then you will be ready to hit the water fully equipped to fish the way our grand and great-grandfathers did it. They were the masters of their craft then, and the reason why most tournament anglers still rely on this old school approach today when they hit the Detroit River.